Are you looking for promising practices your school, district, or organization can utilize to help more students access financial aid?

Through research, case studies, and speaking with high school college access professionals, weve identified a number of promising practices that high schools throughout California are using to increase the number of students applying for financial aid. Below, we highlight these practices with specific examples from three California high schools, Dinuba High, Brawley Union High, and John W. North High, with high numbers of underserved students completing Cal Grant and FAFSA applications.

  • Dinuba High School counselors facilitate evening Cash for College Workshops in Spanish and English to ensure inclusion of as many families as possible.
  • Invite financial aid representatives from local higher education institutions to your campus to assist parents and students completing FAFSA applications.
  • Every fall semester Brawley Union High School conducts a higher education week, during which dozens of colleges and universities visit the campus. These visits allow students to connect with representatives from higher education institutions and learn about the application process and financial aid options. BUHS also organizes financial aid sessions in the early weeks of the spring semester. All seniors planning to attend college participate in these FAFSA application trainings in the schools computer labs. During these sessions students work with college financial aid representatives to complete thier FAFSA and Dream Act applications.
  • John W. North High School holds financial aid workshops led by a representative from a higher education institution or another partner organization. School counselors are present at these workshops to make sure students and parents are able to understand the presented content.
  • Dinuba High School invites local college representatives to attend financial aid workshops. College representatives assist students in completing their financial aid applications on school-provided tablet PCs.
  • Create financial aid application guides and websites containing accessible language for students and parents unfamiliar with higher education terminology.
  • Brawley Union High School counselors have created a FAFSA worksheet for seniors and their families. The worksheet highlights the information required to successfully complete a FAFSA application and is provided in both English and Spanish.
  • John W. North High School counselors have simplified materials from state agencies and higher education institutions so that students and parents can better understand them.
  • Use WebGrants to monitor students submitted FAFSA and Cal Grant applications in real time to identify and correct errors.
  • Brawley Union High School counselors review application data in April to identify and assist students whose applications are flagged for errors. This final step is essential in guaranteeing successful submission of financial aid applications to CSAC.
  • John W. North High School counselors do not consider their work complete once students submit their FAFSA applications. The staff members and community volunteers use WebGrants, to individually monitor student financial aid applications for errors that are often easily corrected. Norths error-check procedure reduced its FAFSA and CA Dream Act application recall rate to approximately 3 percent, which was 20 percent several years ago.
  • Increase time that students and families spend with counselors to prepare for and complete financial aid applications.
  • John W. North High School offers individual counseling sessions with students to support them in completing financial aid applications.  Counselors also visit eleventh and twelfth grade classes to conduct financial aid presentations. During the classroom visits, counselors give students a FAFSA pre- and post-test to assess the impact these visits have on students financial aid knowledge.  NHS counselors also pair students and parents with mentoring adults who serve as college information contacts. The mentors include school counselors, teachers, and community volunteers who have competed trainings on financial options and application procedures.
  • At Dinuba High School, counselors facilitate financial aid Focus Lessons to raise awareness for seniors early in the school year. Outreach to Dinuba students and families dramatically increases following winter break. At this time, DHS counselors market events through phone calls, brochures, and social media to increase interest and attendance at the many financial aid workshops and events occurring throughout the spring semester.


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